It appears that Facebook's admission of its culpability in the proliferation of fake news on its website is coming in a staggered form. After tapping an army of third-party fact-checkers, its most recent iteration came by way of an initiative called Facebook Journalism Project.
Launched Jan. 11, it aims to galvanize Facebook's role as a platform where healthy news ecosystem and journalism can purportedly thrive. The move is said to be part of a recognition that news is part of the Facebook service so the project will serve to strengthen the company's ties with news industry.
What Does The Facebook Journalism Project Mean?
In an official statement, Fidji Simo, director of product at Facebook, has outlined specific measures that should demonstrate how the project will move forward.
Most importantly, he stated that Facebook will be collaborating with news outlets to develop news products. It is not yet clear what these products are going to be but if they will be part of the Facebook network, then it will be quite complicated.
Facebook And Fake News
Facebook has already proven its reticence in policing and censoring fake news stressing that it is not a media company and it will continue to guarantee a free discourse and conversation within its network. Even the announcement itself is still wrapped around this talking point.
"Facebook is a new kind of platform and we want to do our part to enable people to have meaningful conversations, to be informed and to be connected to each other," Simo said.
That position is harmless enough but for a sizable number of users that conversation involves heavily biased content. Users who are eager to share information that support their causes are drawn to these and tend to propagate them regardless of whether they are truthful or not.
This condition, along with Facebook's position of a largely hands-free approach to the discourse happening within the company, could make it challenging to achieve some of its new project's stated objectives.
Aside from the collaboration with media partners, Facebook has also identified several elements to the Journalism Project. For example, Simo stated that Facebook will offer training for journalists via e-learning courses.
There are also tools that are available both to media practitioners and general Facebook users. For the former, the company identified CrowdTangle, a tool for surfacing and evaluating news. Native Facebook services such as Live, 360, and Instant Articles are also going to be enhanced for the use of journalists.
The announcement did not yet detail the tools that everyone can use when consuming and evaluating content, but Facebook said that they are already in the pipeline.
The Project's Prospects
Still, one might recall that Facebook has already been involved in numerous initiatives, such as a consortium that seeks to combat hoaxes but no concrete result has emerged. Hoaxes and fake news still persisted.
One should also note that officials at Facebook seem to have a different grasp of the situation. Mark Zuckerberg, for example, has notoriously claimed that 99 percent of content in Facebook is authentic.
He also noted that social media users are intelligent enough to discern what fake content is and what is not. Studies have so far debunked this but these positions indicate an outlook that could prevent that achievement of a meaningful change despite the creation of initiatives, committees, or products because they could mean that Facebook does not really believe in them.